With public art, sometimes the artist doesn’t even touch the artwork during fabrication and install. This can be a limitation of materiality, of scale, of design, of distance, of liability, and so forth. With works of a large scale, the size is often far beyond any one person’s ability to create, and so a team drifts in, each with their own special tools and skills, to build the thing conceived by the artist. This process is not dissimilar to architecture – and it comes with it’s own magic – but when we can help it, it’s not the way we prefer to work. We like getting our hands dirty. We like touching the art. Despite knowing that public artworks are always a collaboration (and a compromise) we want to make sure we always have some amount of physical involvement in the process, if only just to feel + understand the piece from within.
There are lots of processes behind the public artwork in the Delta Garden we aren’t able to do ourselves: we’re not coring experts or concrete workers. There are lots of skills needed for this piece we need to outsource to other craftspeople in Calgary. But we wanted to ensure that the final work still contains some element of the artists’ touch. You could see this with our public engagement, you can see this with our comical hand-drawn monuments, and you will see this in the marking and placement of our monuments on the concrete.
While we owe much gratitude to the hard-working team drilling and installing our monuments (especially in the cold!!) we were glad to have a direct role in the installation process, however brief. We touched the future site of each of the 12,000 monuments by marking each X by hand.
The location of these markings are self-explanatory: they are the sediment in our imaginy delta. They are placeholders for concrete holes that will eventually hold monuments. En masse, they will create a glittering surface, glinting in the sunshine on reflected on the pathway.
We marked these Xs between other projects over a few months, often sweeping snow and crushing ice to find the concrete beneath. It was a simple, repetitive job, but required some sense of composition, intention, and precision. If done incorrectly, it could throw off the entire formula for the remaining installation process, either leading to too many holes drilled (increasing costs) or too few (decreasing effect).
Despite the chaos of working in an active construction site, we were glad for the context of spending time at the soon-to-be Delta Garden. It was fascinating to absorb the scale of events that unfold, in careful stages, when building a City Park. The insight was valuable. The moments of touch were invaluable. It’s all beginning to become something!